Monday, April 30, 2012

Red Cross: 16 killed in attack on Catholic worship service at Nigeria university

KANO, Nigeria (AP) –  An official with the Nigerian Red Cross says at least 16 people were killed in an attack on church services at a university campus in the country's north.

Andronicus Adeyemo said there were also a number of people wounded, though the aid agency did not have an exact figure. He said officials canvassed local hospitals to get the figure.

The attack happened Sunday morning at Kano's Bayero University. Police say gunmen attacked a Catholic Mass on the campus, using small explosives to draw worshippers out before shooting those who fled.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though it mirrored others previously claimed by a radical Islamist sect known as Boko Haram. That group carried out a coordinated assault in Kano in January that killed at least 185 people.

Pope Benedict says forgiveness is key to global peace

Members participate in the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences' meeting on April 27, 2012.
(EWTN) Pope Benedict XVI says that forgiveness is the key to creating harmony between peoples and nations.
“Forgiveness is not a denial of wrong-doing, but a participation in the healing and transforming love of God which reconciles and restores,” Pope Benedict said April 30.

“Historic wrongs and injustices can only be overcome if men and women are inspired by a message of healing and hope, a message that offers a way forward, out of the impasse that so often locks people and nations into a vicious circle of violence.”

The Pope made his comments in a message to Professor Mary Ann Glendon, the President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which was made public on April 30. The academy is holding its April 27 – May 1 full assembly in Rome to explore the legacy and lessons of Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth).

“While the global political landscape has changed significantly in the intervening half-century,” Pope Benedict noted, “the vision offered by Pope John still has much to teach us as we struggle to face the new challenges for peace and justice in the post-Cold-War era.”

At the time of its publication, Pope John XXIII described his encyclical as an “open letter to the world” in which he made the case for the “tranquility of order” as the foundation for global peace.

“The world will never be the dwelling-place of peace,” he wrote, “till peace has found a home in the heart of each and every human person, till all preserve within themselves the order ordained by God to be preserved.”

The popular Italian pontiff, who is often referred to as “Good Pope John,” was gravely ill at the time he wrote his encyclical, causing it to be sometimes described as his “last will and testament.” He died two months later.

Pope Benedict XVI described “Pacem in Terris” in his recent message to the academy as “a heartfelt appeal from a great pastor, nearing the end of his life, for the cause of peace and justice to be vigorously promoted at every level of society, nationally and internationally.”

He explained that at the heart of all the Church’s social doctrine is an “anthropology which recognizes in the human creature the image of the Creator, endowed with intelligence and freedom, capable of knowing and loving.”

Peace and justice, he said, are the “fruits” of this right order that is “written on the human heart” and therefore “accessible to all people of good will,” regardless of their religion.

Pope Benedict asserted that because humanity is made in the image of God, therefore, its affairs should reflect the God of justice who is “rich in mercy.”

“It is the combination of justice and forgiveness, of justice and grace, which lies at the heart of the divine response to human wrong-doing,” he said, quoting his own 2007 encyclical “Spe Salvi.”

A similar sentiment, he noted, was issued by Pope John Paul II in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, when he insisted that there can be “no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.”

Pope Benedict took heart from the fact that since 1963 “some of the conflicts that seemed insoluble at the time have passed into history.” He finished his message by commending the work of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences to “Our Lady, Queen of Peace.”

Wikipedia head joins Vatican meeting, talks about abortion controversy

Jimmy Wales

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The co-founder of Wikipedia told a Vatican audience that his online encyclopedia could contribute to peace by promoting "a more thoughtful world," even as the site was under fire for how it referred to those who oppose and support legalized abortion.

Jimmy Wales, who co-founded Wikipedia in 2001, was invited to address the annual assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The meeting at the Vatican April 27-May 1 focused on Blessed John XXIII's 1963 encyclical "Pacem in Terris" and continuing challenges to promoting peace and justice in the world.

In an interview after his speech, Wales also spoke about Wikipedia's arbitration process to determine the correct Wikipedia use of the terms "pro-choice," "pro-life," "abortion rights" and "anti-abortion" to describe individuals and movements.

Wikipedia, which allows almost all entries to be initiated, updated and edited by almost anyone, had received complaints about an inconsistent use of the terms, which some people felt unfairly tended to use the negative "anti-abortion" to describe the pro-life position while almost always using the positive "pro-choice" label to describe those who support legal abortion.

The online site conducted a "community consultation" of users March 23-April 23, asking them to discuss the terms, their implications and list in order of preference the terms they thought were most appropriate. Wikipedia administrators were scheduled to review the discussion and votes before issuing a final ruling May 1 that would be binding for three years.

Wales told Catholic News Service he had not had a chance to read the online discussion or the final decision. But in general, he said, Wikipedia recognizes that certain words or terms "are heavily loaded" and the goal always is to find "a single, simple, neutral term."

One of the Wikipedia principles is that "you can refer to people as they refer to themselves," Wales said. "Certainly the most common terms in the U.S. in this discourse are pro-life and pro-choice, but both sides have complaints" about the accuracy of the other's description.

Wikipedia also wants to be careful about using terms that implicitly imply a judgment, for instance by using the term "pro-abortion," he said. Those supporting legalized abortion "may be pro-abortion relative to a Catholic priest of course," he said, but most people who support legalized abortion would not say they promote abortion.

In his presentation to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Wales explained how Wikipedia pursues its goal of promoting "a world in which every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge."

While most pages of Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, the edits are reviewed by other Wikipedia users and can be referred to Wikipedia administrators -- usually longtime contributors who volunteer their time and are elected by Wikipedia users -- and to an arbitration committee.

Wales said he believes the online encyclopedia "has a significant role to play" in peacemaking because it encourages participation, has a broad reach, makes information accessible and is available in about 280 languages. The English, German, French and Dutch pages each have more than 1 million articles posted, he said.

Wikipedia is a "mediating and moderating influence on the discourse on the Internet," he said, because each article is open to review, discussion and correction. Much of the information people access through the news media tends "to be inflammatory. That doesn't contribute to peace at all," he said. His goal is to have Wikipedia be "calmer, slower and more reflective than that."

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa told the meeting that while people today are better educated and have greater access to information than in the past, they are becoming less human because education is focused so heavily on hard science, that it leaves aside questions about the meaning of human life and destiny.

"I would say the signs that I see are much more hopeful than that," Wales told CNS. When he speaks at high schools and universities, the young people cheer -- "they love Wikipedia" and love reading it.

"I think there is a real passion among young people today to be better informed," he said.

Wales said the Catholic Church must use the Internet and social media to engage in discussions with young people and it must do a better job of allowing them the space to comment and discuss.

Church sites, though, need to have filtering software and participants who can exercise "social control" on those who misbehave.

"If you invite 20 people over to your house for a party and somebody starts making obnoxious and racist and sexist comments, you may ask them to leave, but at the very least, you don't invite them back," he said. An interactive website must do the same with unruly guests.

"The same spirit you would have at a church supper, you ought to have online," Wales said.

Wisconsin prelate defends priests, warns of canonical penalty for calumny

(Catholic Culture) — Lamenting the closing of a parish school because of declining donations, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison strongly defended priests who have instituted liturgical changes and asked parishioners to consider the canonical penalties enjoined for acts of calumny.

By 2009, Bishop Morlino had invited nine priests of the Spanish-based Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to serve in various parishes in his diocese. In 2010, when parishioners at St. Mary’s in Platteville complained that the society’s priests at their parish were “pre-Vatican II,” the bishop defended the priests.

According to the parish’s liturgical schedule, Mass is offered daily in the ordinary form and on most days in the extraordinary form, with confessions heard for one hour before every Mass.

As declining donations led to the recent decision to close the school, Bishop Morlino called upon parishioners to deepen their charity.

“I’ve received no examples of teaching or practice contrary to the teaching of the Church,” he added. “I’ve not received a single substantiated claim of false teaching or of a liturgical violation.”

Bishop Morlino then urged parishioners to reflect upon selected texts from the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the Code of Canon Law, including texts on canonical penalties.

Michigan wife to donate kidney to man on anniversary

(AP) — Dale Casto won't be counting on any more big gifts from his wife, Kathy, after what she's going to give him on their 35th wedding anniversary.

Her kidney.

"I'm not going to expect anything for my birthday or Christmas," he told the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

The transplant procedure is set for May 14 — the date of the Traverse City couple's anniversary — at Saint Mary's Health Care in Grand Rapids.

"You get a decent kidney, and you have so much more energy," said Dale Casto, who undergoes peritoneal dialysis, a blood-filtering process, five times a day.

The 60-year-old disabled police officer and designer-engineer has been on a deceased donor kidney transplant waiting list since 2009. He was diagnosed with diabetes in the early 2000s and learned he had kidney disease in 2008 after a pre-operative exam for eye surgery.

Doctors told him then his kidneys were functioning at about 28%. By March 2009, that function was down to 5%, Casto said.

His family, including the couple's three grown children, offered to donate a kidney, but because diabetes could someday compromise the children's organs, they were discouraged from getting tested.

That left Kathy Casto as the lone candidate from the immediate family.

"I knew she was the same blood type, so I knew there was a possibility there," said daughter Angela Mikowski, 33. "I was thankfully surprised that she made it through the screening. I always had hopes that somebody would come through."

Kathy Casto, 53, learned her kidney was a match for her husband Feb. 13, when she opened an email from the transplant center.

"I copied it that night and put it in a Valentine's card and gave it to him," she said. "He doesn't say a lot, but he got choked up and went in and showed our son."

She said the transplant is expected to cost more than $260,000. Colleagues at Tendercare Traverse City, where she is a business office manager, held a fundraiser Friday to help pay for out-of-pocket costs.

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" - April 30, 2012

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 30

4:00 – Notre Dame Faculty Attack a Bishop: An Iconic ND Professor Responds
On April 14, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, of Peoria, Illinois, delivered a courageous homily at Men’s Conference Mass strongly criticizing the HHS mandates. In response, over 100 Notre Dame faculty signed a letter asking the Bishop to resign from the ND Board of Fellows. Now, iconic ND professor Charles Rice is responding to his colleagues. He joins us.

4:20 – Chinese Dissident Escapes House Arrest and is Reportedly at US Embassy
Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer known for his outspoken opposition to China’s forced abortion and sterilization policies, has escaped from house arrest and has reportedly sought U.S. diplomatic protection, potentially casting the United States in an awkward position on the eve of high-level talks between the nations. ChinaAid, a Texas-based activist group, said Chen was under the protection of U.S. officials and talks were underway between U.S. and Chinese officials about his fate. The U.S. Embassy, however, maintained its silence, declining to either confirm or deny that Chen was there, with a diplomat citing the sensitivity of the situation. We talk with David Aikman, who spent many years as TIME bureau chief in China.

4:40 – House Leadership Says it is Prepared to Hold AG Eric Holder in Contempt over Fast and Furious Documents
House GOP leaders said Friday they are pursuing a plan to hold Attorney General Eric H. Holder and the Justice Department in contempt for “stonewalling” them over information regarding the administration’s failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking program. GOP Rep. Darrell Issa confirmed to Fox News that House Speaker John Boehner gave him and others on his House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform the authority to drafted a contempt of Congress resolution. We talk with Katie Pavlich, author of Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up.

5:00 – Vatican Investigation of LCWR Decades in the Making
The Vatican has called for a thorough reform of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the umbrella group that represents most of the women’s religious orders in the US. After a thorough investigation of the LCWR, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) concluded that “the current doctrinal and pastoral situation of LCWR is grave and a matter of serious concern.” The CDF concluded that a Vatican intervention was necessary to reform the group. Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle has been appointed as the Vatican’s delegate to supervise the reform of the LCWR. The archbishop has been charged with helping LCWR leaders to revise the group’s statues, plan its programs, review liturgical texts, and reconsider the group’s affiliations with other organizations. We talk with Ann Carey, author of Sisters in Crisis: The Tragic Unveiling of Women’s Religious Communities.

5:20 – Kresta Comments: Mainstream Media and Their Perversion of the Vatican Investigation of the LCWR

5:40 – China Expert Steven Mosher: “Chen Guangcheng Key to China's Future”
Chinese human rights activist and longtime political prisoner Chen Guangcheng has escaped from house arrest to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. The blind, self-taught attorney has been a vocal advocate of the rights of women and a strong critic of the oppression of the Chinese government. As the Secretary of State is scheduled to travel to China later this week, this turn of events poses a difficult situation for Chinese-American relations. Steven Mosher, one of America's leading China experts, says, "Chen Guangcheng and I have been fighting the same battle for years. I am an eyewitness to forced abortions, coercive sterilizations and infanticide in China. Chen is the blind attorney who documented 7,000 cases of forced abortions in one small part of Shantung province, and sought justice for the women and children thus victimized.” Steven joins us.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chen Guangcheng, blind Chinese lawyer-activist, escapes house arrest

(Washington Post) BEIJING — Chen Guangcheng, the blind, self-taught lawyer known for his outspoken opposition to China’s forced abortion and sterilization policies, has escaped from house arrest and posted a dramatic YouTube video calling on Premier Wen Jiabao to investigate his case and protect his family.

Hu Jia, another prominent activist and friend of the Chen family, said Chen arrived in Beijing on Monday and was currently in the U.S. Embassy under the protection of U.S. diplomats. The embassy would neither confirm nor deny that he was there.

“As far as I know, he is in the U.S. Embassy, the safest place in China,” Hu said. “He is in the U.S. Embassy, or under the shelter of diplomats at least. I’m not sure if he’s going to ask for political asylum or not. I don’t know if he still wants to stay in China.”

All information about Chen has now been censored on Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site that often serves as an alternative news source in China.

“Premier Wen, with great difficulty, I have escaped,” Chen announced in the video message.

Regardless of whether the U.S. government is currently helping shelter Chen, his escape from his village in Shandong province on Sunday, and the video detailing abuse he and his wife suffered under house arrest, seemed likely to embarrass the Beijing government just days before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner arrive for a long-scheduled talks on political and economic matters. Clinton has repeatedly called for Chen’s release.

“Since this happened just one week before the Sino-U.S. strategic dialogue, the timing is good,” Hu said. “Chen must be able to meet the U.S. human rights specialist and hopefully, he will meet Clinton.”

“This is an election year in the U.S.,” Hu said. “The Republicans are also watching what [President] Obama will do on this case.”

The Obama administration put up a wall of silence in the hours after Chen’s escape became public, refusing to confirm or deny the reports that he had sought refuge at the embassy in Beijing. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, pressed repeatedly by reporters at the department’s daily news briefing Friday, said only: “I don’t have anything for you on that subject.”

Asked more generally about China’s treatment of the blind dissident, Nuland acknowledged that the U.S. government had “spoken out about his case in the past.”

“We have always had concerns about this case,” she said.

It is extremely rare, but not unprecedented, for detained activists to evade their captors and escape from house arrest in China. Chen’s escape, which apparently was planned over several weeks, raised fears that he could face severe reprisals if he is caught.

If Chen is confirmed to be at the U.S. Embassy or under the protection of American diplomats, it would immediately present the Obama administration with the second thorny diplomatic dispute with China in less than three months, following a Feb. 6 incident involving the former Chongqing police chief, Wang Lijun, who spent more than a day at the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu.

Univ. of MI develops new stem cell line as Legislature threatens to withhold funding

The University of Michigan may be in the midst of a battle with state GOP lawmakers over its controversial embryonic stem cell research, but that's not stopping the university from strengthening its stem cell research portfolio.

The school recently placed its second embryonic stem cell line on the National Institutes of Health's nationwide stem cell registry. U-M's new addition to the list further solidifies the school's position as a major player in stem cell research and allows government-backed researchers to use the line in research.

It's also likely to add tension to a battle brewing in Lansing between the Republican lawmakers that decide U-M's budget and university administrators who have declined to tell the Legislature exactly how many human embryos are used during research. Legislators requested that U-M disclose how many embryos it uses more than a year ago but the 50-plus page report university president Mary Sue Coleman turned over to lawmakers in December did not include the exact number of embryos used.

State Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, a member of the subcommittee that decides how funds are doled out to universities, recently accused U-M of thumbing its nose at the legislature.

Legislators have threatened to withhold up to $7 million in performance funding from U-M if administrators do not fully disclose how many embryos U-M uses.

Coleman says it's unlikely the school will disclose that information.

"Even though we were asked specific questions we don’t collect the data in this way and we think that focus on these issues, these specific little issues, were trivializing the complexity" of stem cell research, Coleman said recently. "I want to continue to put this in context.... We are doing this according to the strict regulations of the federal government."

Meanwhile, U-M researchers are optimistic their new stem cell line will be instrumental in developing a cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a debilitating neurological disorder that causes foot, leg and hand muscles to degenerate early in life.

The new line was derived from a 5-day-old embryo the size of a period. That embryo was created for reproductive purposes, tested and found to be affected with the genetic disorder, deemed not suitable for implantation, and would therefore have otherwise been discarded when it was donated in 2011. According to U-M Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is one of the most common inherited neurological disorders and affects one in 2,500 people in the United States.

Said co-director of the U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies Gary Smith: "Once again, the acceptance of these cells to the registry demonstrates our attention to details of proper oversight, consenting, and following of NIH guidelines."

U-M has several other disease-specific lines submitted to NIH and awaiting approval. The school's first embryonic stem cell line was accepted to the registry in February.

Michigan Consumer Sentiment Rises in April

(Business Week) Confidence among U.S. consumers climbed in April to the highest level in a year as Americans became more upbeat about the outlook for the economy.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final index of sentiment increased to 76.4 from 76.2 last month. The gauge was projected to hold at the 75.7 level initially reported earlier this month, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of economists.

Gasoline costs that have declined since reaching an 11- month high earlier in the month are giving households some relief. Job gains may be help make American more comfortable stepping up purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy.

“People have been spending; whether they continue to spend is a function of what happens with the labor market,” said Joseph Lavorgna, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. in New York. “Assuming stock prices hold up, and that’s in part because the labor data look OK, we should expect the consumer to continue to open his or her wallet.”

Another report today showed the economy expanded less than forecast in the first quarter as a smaller contribution from inventories overshadowed a pickup in consumer spending, homebuilding, and auto production. Gross domestic product rose at a 2.2 percent annual rate after a 3 percent pace, Commerce Department figures showed in Washington.

Estimates for the sentiment gauge ranged from 74 to 77 in the Bloomberg survey of 61 economists. The index averaged 64.2 during the last recession. It averaged 89 in the five years before the 18-month economic slump that ended in June 2009.

Bloomberg Measure
Today’s sentiment report follows yesterday’s release of the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which fell to a two-month low after reaching a four-year high on April 15. The comfort index fell to minus 35.8 from minus 31.4 a week earlier.

The Michigan index of current conditions, which reflects Americans’ perceptions of their financial situation and whether it’s a good time to buy big-ticket goods like cars, fell to 82.9 from 86 a month earlier. The gauge improved from the preliminary April reading of 80.6.

The gauge of consumer expectations for six months from now, which more closely projects the direction of consumer spending, increased to 72.3 this month from 69.8 in March.

The labor market has showed signs of cooling after more Americans than forecast filed for unemployment benefits last week. Jobless claims fell to 388,000 from a revised 389,00 the prior week, the Labor Department reported.

Dimmer View of Finances
Today’s report also showed that Americans were more pessimistic about their finances than in March. Views on finances weakened across all income groups, with 28 percent saying they were improved, down from 34 percent who said so last month.

Consumers in today’s confidence report said they expect an inflation rate of 3.2 percent over the next 12 months, down from 3.9 percent in March.

Over the next five years, the figures tracked by Federal Reserve policy makers, Americans expected a 2.9 percent rate of inflation this month compared with 3 percent in March.

Along with signs of economic growth, consumers are coping with inflation in food and fuel, said Steven Burd, chief executive officer of Safeway Inc. (SWY) (SWY), a retail food and drug chain based in Pleasanton, California.

“I think there’s a recovery under way and at the end of the day I think consumers see that and, you know, consumer confidence builds,” Burd said in an April 26 earnings call. “If you can see a rise in home prices while interest rates are still low, that should actually bode well for consumer confidence in the future.”

Cardinal George says funeral service for unburied poor

(EWTN) Cardinal Francis George of Chicago oversaw a burial service Wednesday for 13 impoverished adults and 120 unborn babies whose bodies had been stored at the Cook County morgue for months.

“We commit them to the ground, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” the cardinal said during the service at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.

He told the Chicago Sun-Times that burying the dead is “a corporal work of mercy.”

“That’s because everyone is made in God’s image and likeness, and our way of burying people who have gone to the Lord is a way of professing that faith.”

Financial problems at the county morgue meant that the dead went unburied, some for more than a year. Some families did not claim the bodies or couldn’t afford burials.

The backlog at the morgue was so severe that some bodies were stacked on top of each other. At one point there were 363 bodies, though the morgue only has a capacity for 300.

Funeral homes across the county participated in the April 26 services.

During the service, funeral workers placed flowers on the wooden caskets. Small markers will be placed near the graves.

Unclaimed bodies normally stay only two months before being buried in a cemetery that contracts with the county. The state of Illinois stopped providing payments to funeral homes for indigent burials in June 2011, aggravating the problem.

Cook County spokeswoman Mary Paleologos told the Sun Times that the burials cost $52,000.

The archdiocese’s Catholic Cemeteries had offered up to 300 graves and internment services to help the backlog at the Cook County Morgue, the archdiocese said April 23. County officials will use two-dozen of the offered graves.

The Cook County Board has approved a proposal to make it easier to fire the county’s chief medical examiner, NBC Chicago reported.

Prison mates promote cause of heroic Korean War priest

(EWTN) The head of the cause for the beatification of an American priest who died in a Communist prison during the Korean War says the chaplain's fellow inmates are the real promoters of his sainthood.

Father John Hotze told EWTN News on April 18 that there is great support for the cause of Korean War chaplain Father Emil Kapaun “especially among the men who were in prison with him.” 

“They have been promoting his cause of holiness and that he be awarded the Medal of Honor since they left prison in 1953.”

Fr. Kapaun’s prison mates are now all in their 80s. 

In November of 1950, Fr. Kapaun met up with soldiers besieged by Korean troops at the Battle of Unsan. The Army chaplain chose to stay with the wounded and was imprisoned at a concentration camp near Pyoktong, North Korea, where he was tortured.

For six months he ministered to other prisoners, often giving others his own food rations, and was subjected to forced labor. He celebrated baptisms, heard confessions, offered the Mass and administered last rites. The priest eventually developed a blood clot in his leg and fell ill with dysentery and pneumonia.

According to the testimony of his prison mates, he died in prison on May 23, 1951 and was buried in a common grave near the Yalu River.

Fr. Hotze, a priest from the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., says he's been personally enriched by researching the story of Fr. Kapaun who is today considered a Servant of God.

“I learned about his life, what he did and everything he went through. We have stories told by his prison mates and how he cared for their wounds.”

Since July 1, 2011, the cause has been in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints.  “Our diocesis has turned in the investigation, all the documents, and all this information is now in their hands,” he said.

Training Pastors in Prisons

By Jordan Lee

(WNS)--The prison guards at the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC), a Level II correctional facility in Norco, Calif., rushed in when they saw a group of inmates submerging a man's head in the communal sinks, thinking they were preventing a race-related murder.

"The guards come in wanting to know why the races are all together. They thought we were trying to drown the guys, but we were just baptizing them," said Cary White, the man baptizing the three new believers on that day.

White received a seminary-level education while serving his sentence in CRC through The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI), a program developed by World Impact and facilitated by Prison Fellowship to provide seminary classes to prison inmates and the urban poor.

The program has been so successful in curbing violence behind bars that prison guards and the California Department of Corrections have taken notice, some even inviting TUMI into their prisons. This year, TUMI is expanding from five to 26 California prisons.

And while the privately funded program currently is only offered in California, Florida, and Michigan, Prison Fellowship CEO Jim Liske said the goal is to have at least one TUMI project in every state within the next three to five years.

TUMI began six years ago, when Prison Fellowship and World Impact collaborated to to address the lack of pastors raised up from America's urban poor.

Keith Phillips, World Impact's president, said that an expensive seminary education is inaccessible to many: "Historically, if you happened to be urban and poor and you wanted a theological education, you'd have to change cultures or you'd have to know someone who is rich."

TUMI helps address this problem by training prisoners to be pastors and preparing them for ministry behind bars and in their communities. Graduates of TUMI receive a Certificate in Christian Leadership Studies, an education equivalent to a Masters in Divinity, minus the study of Greek and Hebrew.

"The guys who came out are thoroughly trained, deeply rooted, and capable of rightly dividing the word of truth," Phillips said.

Before joining TUMI, White had been in and out of county jail and state rehab programs for years. He was en route to a prison in Jamestown, Calif., when the prison guards randomly escorted him off the bus one stop early at CRC, White said: "I started arguing with the guard because it wasn't the right prison."

The logistical mistake brought White to one of the five California prisons that offered a pilot TUMI program in 2008.

When White heard about TUMI through Prison Fellowship, he realized that God had placed a calling on his life: "I began to see God's fingerprints on my life from the time when I was a child to when I was taken to the wrong prison. I broke down crying and realized that [CRC] was my training ground."

White and his seven TUMI classmates studied 30-40 hours a week outside of class, working through 16 ten-week courses that covered Biblical studies, urban missions, Christian ministry, theology and ethics.

As their zeal for Christ and knowledge of the Bible grew, the TUMI students became leaders in their dorms and the prison yard: "Almost every single student that was enrolled was literally planting churches in their cell blocks," White said.

Prison Fellowship's Liske said that some of these TUMI students are serving 10-, 20-, or 30-year sentences: "They broke the law, and they need to pay the price, but now they have found a way to redeem the time. Now they are asking how many souls they can reach for Christ inside those walls."

Most prisoners only give Christians one chance before deeming them hypocrites, White said. But as White lived out his faith, many were drawn to him as a peacemaker. White's prison block made him an official representative to regulate racial disputes: "When I left my dorm all the inmates got together and made a huge going-away card, thanking me for all the riots that I had prevented."

Even the wardens noticed a difference in White and the other TUMI students, and the guards in CRC began requesting to be assigned to the units with TUMI students.

Outside of CRC, others also are inviting the program to their prisons: "We've had wardens, governors, and private prisons ask us to bring TUMI," Liske said. Even the California Department of Corrections created a special classification for TUMI that keeps inmates from being transferred until they are finished with the program, Liske said.

As a 2011 Supreme Court ruling forces California to release tens of thousands of inmates from its overcrowded prisons, World Impact's Phillips believes TUMI alumni will make an impact outside cell walls: "Imagine seeing these scores of men coming out of California prisons with the equivalent of a seminary-level education and then being dropped in the major cities of America, ready to assist in planting churches."

Today White is out of prison and reconciled with his family. He works as a mentor and board chairman at a TUMI facility in Riverside, Calif., and also is studying for a Masters in Divinity.

He said the band of Christians inside prisons is growing exponentially: "When I started there were eight men [in TUMI], and we brought 70. Now imagine what work those 70 can do for the Kingdom in a 4,000-man prison."

Troubled Virginia Abortion Clinic Puts Bleeding Botched Abortion Patient in Hospital

(WNS)--A 35-year old diabetic patient suffering from heavy bleeding after an abortion at Nova Women's Healthcare was rushed to the hospital on March 3, 2012, according to recently obtained 911 records. Pro-life activists were at the scene and videotaped the ambulance and fire units that responded to the 911 call and later sought the 911 records through an open records act request. Nova Women's Healthcare has a long history of abortion injuries and standard of care violations, including the death of a patient in 2002. Its owner, Mi Yong Kim, continues to operate the abortion clinic even though she was forced to surrender her medical license in 2007. In 1998, Kim was disciplined for failing to determine the gestational age of pregnancy for one of her abortion patients. Board documents reveal that she assumed one patient's pregnancy was 8 weeks, but in reality her baby was 26 weeks gestation. The ensuing botched abortion landed the woman in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. In 2005, Kim was disciplined after a patient died from an air embolism during an abortion. Kim improperly sedated her patient, failing to realize that she had gone into cardiac arrest. Kim did not attempt to resuscitate her. In 2007, the Board determined that Kim failed to provide follow-up care for her patients, kept inadequate records, and improperly dispensed and handled drugs. Under threat of revocation, Kim voluntary surrendered her medical license but continued to operate her abortion clinic. In 2009, Kim and Nova Women's Healthcare was sued for conducting an abortion on a woman with an ectopic pregnancy. The patient was told the abortion was successful and sent home. The ectopic pregnancy later ruptured and caused a painful, life-threatening emergency for the woman. "There can be no doubt that Kim's policies and procedures -- for which she was forced to surrender her medical license -- are in place at Nova and are endangering the lives and health of women every day. She has no business operating any kind of facility," said Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Policy Advisor for Operation Rescue and Pro-Life Nation. "We are filing complaints and urging the medical board and the health department to step in and close the clinic on an emergency basis in the interest of public safety."

Birth to Twelve Years Old in 2 min. 45 sec

According to the brief accompanying text, “Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester filmed his daughter every week, from birth up until she turned 12 years old and then made this time lapse edit. Fascinating.”

If you are a parent, you will doubtless think to yourself,” That’s right!” It DOES seem as if our children grow up before us in a blink of an eye. And what jumps out at you is the continuity. While there is gradual, ongoing change, Lotte at birth is Lotte at 12, only bigger and able to make even more comically funny faces.
I wonder, what if a woman facing a crisis pregnancy were able to see in her mind’s eye a time lapse edit of her developing child—from whatever stage the baby is at the point when she may be contemplating an abortion until birth. She would see that it really isn’t all that long and that the baby who is tiny and sort of a stranger now will soon be much larger and someone for whom she (paradoxically) would give her life.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Today on "Kresta in the Afternoon" - April 26, 2012

Talking about the "things that matter most" on April 26

4:00 – Kresta Comments – Bishop Daniel Jenky: Bold Leadership
Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria told the 500 men who attended the diocese’s annual men’s march and Mass that “the days in which we live now require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism.” But what is raising eyebrows is the following: “The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate. May God have mercy on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil…Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care. In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama--with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda--now seems intent on following a similar path.” Al has reaction.

4:20 – The Illustrated Bible Story by Story
In a stunningly-beautiful coffee-table style book, Fr. Michael Collins offers and indispensable retelling of the stories that have absorbed readers for centuries. Authenticated by a team of expert biblical scholars and historians, The Illustrated Bible Story by Story traces the events and places that have shaped the scriptures, book by book, prophet by prophet, miracle by miracle. With comprehensive coverage of every major covenant, prophecy, miracle, and parable in the Old and New Testaments, set clearly in their historical and religious context, The Illustrated Bible Story by Story's uniquely accessible approach appeals to a general readership of any faith, making this an ideal gift as well as an essential resource for homes, schools, and libraries. Fr. Collins joins us.

5:00 – Kresta Comments – Bishop Daniel Jenky: Bold Leadership

5:20 – Legal Analysis: Does the AIG Bailout Violate the Constitution? Can a Parody Infringe on Copyright Protections? Can an Employee Be Fired Over a Letter to the Editor?
We look at three cases being argued right now by attorney Rob Muise. One nvolves a former human resources manager who was fired after she published an op-ed in the local paper sharing her views on homosexuality. The second involves a lawsuit brought against a pro-life organization by an abortion clinic for copyright infringement. And the third challenges the constitutionality of the AIG bailout. Rob joins us.

5:40 – Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally: Take 2
The first time out we had more than 140 cities and over 65,000 participants, and this time we will top those numbers. It’s the second National Day of Protest Against the HHS Mandates and will be Friday, June 8. We will again gather in cities across the United States to rally in defense of religious freedom and stand up against the HHS Mandate. One of the organizers, Monica Miller, is here to discuss it.

Military chaplain being considered for medal of honor and sainthood

Vatican Commission on China

(Vatican Radio) Below a Statement of the Press Office of the Holy See on the Plenary Meeting of the Commission for the Catholic Church in China

The Commission which Pope Benedict XVI established in 2007 to study questions of major importance regarding the life of the Catholic Church in China met in the Vatican for the fifth time from 23 to 25 April.

With deep spiritual closeness to all brothers and sisters in the faith living in China, the Commission recognized the gifts of fidelity and dedication which the Lord has given to his Church throughout the past year.

The participants examined the theme of the formation of the lay faithful, in view also of the “Year of Faith” which the Holy Father has announced will be held from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013. The words of the Gospel, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man” (Lk 2:52), set out the task to which the Catholic lay faithful in China are called. 

In the first place, they must enter ever more deeply into the life of the Church, nourished by doctrine, conscious of their being part of the Catholic Church, and consistent with the requirements of life in Christ, which necessitates hearing the word of God with faith. From this perspective, a profound knowledge of the Catechism of the Catholic Church will be a particularly important aid for them. 

In the second place, lay Catholics are called to take part in civic life and in the world of work, offering their own contribution with full responsibility: by loving life and respecting it from conception until natural death; by loving the family, promoting values which are also proper to traditional Chinese culture; by loving their country as honest citizens concerned for the common good. As an ancient Chinese sage put it, “the way of great learning consists in illustrating noble virtues, in renewing and staying close to people, and in reaching the supreme good.” 

Thirdly, the lay faithful in China must grow in grace before God and men, by nourishing and perfecting their own spiritual life as active members of the parish community and by involving themselves in the apostolate, also with the help of associations and Church movements which foster their ongoing formation. 

In this regard, the Commission noted with joy that the proclamation of the Gospel by Catholic communities, which are sometimes poor and without material resources, encourages many adults to request baptism every year. It was thus emphasized that the Dioceses in China should promote a serious catechumenate, adopt the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and care for their formation after Baptism as well. Pastors, both Bishops and priests, should make every effort to consolidate the lay faithful in their knowledge of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, and in particular of ecclesiology and the social doctrine of the Church. Moreover, it will be useful to dedicate special solicitude to the preparation of pastoral workers dedicated to evangelization, catechesis and works of charity. The integral formation of lay Catholics, above all in those places where rapid social evolution and significant economic development are occurring, is part of a commitment to make the local Church vibrant and thriving. Finally, an adequate response to the phenomenon of internal migration and urbanization is to be hoped for.

Practical indications, which the Holy See has proposed and will propose to the universal Church for a fruitful celebration of the “Year of Faith”, will undoubtedly be heeded with enthusiasm and with a creative spirit also in China. These suggestions will stimulate the Catholic community to find adequate initiatives to put into practice what Pope Benedict XVI has written regarding the lay faithful and the family in his Letter of 27 May 2007 to the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China (cf. Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China, 15-16).

The lay faithful, therefore, are called to participate with apostolic zeal in the evangelization of the Chinese people. By virtue of their baptism and confirmation, they receive from Christ the grace and the task to build up the Church (cf. Eph 4:1-16). 

In the course of the Meeting, attention then focussed on the Pastors, in particular on Bishops and priests who are detained or who are suffering unjust limitations on the performance of their mission. Admiration was expressed for the strength of their faith and for their union with the Holy Father. They need the Church’s prayer in a special way so as to face their difficulties with serenity and in fidelity to Christ.

The Church needs good Bishops. They are a gift of God to his people, for the benefit of whom they exercise the office of teaching, sanctifying and governing. They are also called to provide reasons for life and hope to all whom they meet. They receive from Christ, through the Church, their task and authority, which they exercise in union with the Roman Pontiff and with all the Bishops throughout the world. 

Concerning the particular situation of the Church in China, it was noted that the claim of the entities, called “One Association and One Conference”, to place themselves above the Bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community, persists. In this regard, the instructions given in the Letter of Pope Benedict XVI (cf. Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China, 7), remain current and provide direction. It is important to observe them so that the face of the Church may shine forth with clarity in the midst of the noble Chinese people.

This clarity has been obfuscated by those clerics who have illegitimately received episcopal ordination and by those illegitimate Bishops who have carried out acts of jurisdiction or who have administered the Sacraments. In so doing, they usurp a power which the Church has not conferred upon them. In recent days, some of them have participated in episcopal ordinations which were authorized by the Church. The behaviour of these Bishops, in addition to aggravating their canonical status, has disturbed the faithful and often has violated the consciences of the priests and lay faithful who were involved.

Furthermore, this clarity has been obfuscated by legitimate Bishops who have participated in illegitimate episcopal ordinations. Many of these Bishops have since clarified their position and have requested pardon; the Holy Father has benevolently forgiven them. Others, however, who also took part in these illegitimate ordinations, have not yet made this clarification, and thus are encouraged to do so as soon as possible.

The participants in the Plenary Meeting follow these painful events with attention and in a spirit of charity. Though they are aware of the particular difficulties of the present situation, they recall that evangelization cannot be achieved by sacrificing essential elements of the Catholic faith and discipline. Obedience to Christ and to the Successor of Peter is the presupposition of every true renewal and this applies to every category within the People of God. Lay people themselves are sensitive to the clear ecclesial fidelity of their own Pastors.

With regard to priests, consecrated persons and seminarians, the Commission reflected once again on the importance of their formation, rejoicing in the sincere and praiseworthy commitment to provide not only suitable programmes of human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral formation for the seminarians, but also times of ongoing formation for priests. In addition, appreciative mention was made of the initiatives which are being undertaken by various female religious institutes to coordinate formation activities for consecrated persons. 

It was noted, on the other hand, that the number of vocations to the priestly and religious life has noticeably declined in recent years. The challenges of the situation impel the faithful to invoke the Lord of the harvest and to strengthen the awareness that each priest and woman religious, faithful and luminous in their evangelical witness, are the primary sign still capable of encouraging today’s young men and women to follow Christ with undivided heart. 

Finally, the Commission recalls that this upcoming 24 May, the liturgical memorial of the “Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians” and the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, will provide a particularly auspicious opportunity for the entire Church to ask for energy and consolation, mercy and courage, for the Catholic community in China. 

Supreme Court Could Make Police Immigration Agents

(Fox News) Local police may act as quasi-immigration agents if the U.S. Supreme Court approves Arizona's request that local police be permitted to enforce immigration laws.

Over the last several years, states frustrated with America's porous borders, have rejected the long held notion that Washington is responsible for confronting illegal immigration and have passed a flurry of laws to let local police confront illegal immigration. The Supreme Court is poised in the coming months to let the states know whether they haven't crossed the line.

The justices strongly suggested Wednesday that they are ready to let Arizona enforce the most controversial part of its law, a requirement that police officers check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally. 

Such a ruling could codify the type of local enforcement that some local authorities in Arizona have carried out over the last six years and open the door to such enforcement in states with similar laws, such as Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah.

"I think you'll see more involvement by local police in immigration enforcement, an involvement that hadn't previously been seen," Kevin Johnson, law school dean at the University of California-Davis and an expert in immigration law, said of the possibility of Arizona's law being upheld.

The most controversial parts of the Arizona law were put on hold by a federal judge shortly before they were to take effect in late July 2010, but the statute has encouraged other states to take up similar legislation and -- combined with other state immigration laws and an ailing economy -- played a part in 170,000 undocumented immigrants leaving Arizona since 2007.

"If you want to turn around this invasion, then (you should) do attrition through enforcement," said former state Sen. Russell Pearce, architect of the 2010 law and the driving force behind other Arizona immigration laws, echoing the stated purpose of the 2010 state law.

Arizona has argued it pays a disproportionate price for illegal immigration because of its 370-mile border with Mexico and its role as the busiest illegal entry point into the country.

The Obama administration, which challenged the law, said the law conflicts with a more nuanced federal immigration policy that seeks to balance national security, law enforcement, foreign policy, human rights and the rights of law-abiding citizens and immigrants. 

Civil rights groups that back the administration say Arizona's and the other states' measures encourage racial profiling and ethnic stereotyping.

A decision in the case is expected in late June.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, whose office has helped defend the law, predicted the Supreme Court will uphold the law because many of its provision mirror existing federal laws and that a year from now the state will see even less illegal immigration.
"You won't see anything that noticeable as far as law enforcement goes," Horne said. "But you will see less people sneaking across the border."
The Supreme Court's comments on the most controversial requirement in Arizona's law surprised state officials who had supported the law and had thus far lost all major court battles over the law. 
"I think we'll win. It's just how big we win," Pearce said.

Immigrant rights advocates, who believed the courts would reject attempts by states to grab more law enforcement power, also were surprised and said a validation of the law by the Supreme Court would frighten immigrants further and cause Latinos who are here legally to be asked about their immigration status.
"The crisis here in Arizona would only multiply," said Carlos Garcia, organizer of an immigration march that drew several hundred people in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday. 

Authorities said at least nine people were arrested for blocking a street and refusing to move. "It would mean that anyone, as they are leaving their home -- whether they are going to work, to church, where ever they are going -- could be asked for their documents."

During arguments Wednesday over the Arizona law, liberal and conservative justices reacted skeptically to the Obama administration's argument that the state exceeded its authority when it made the records check, and another provision allowing suspected undocumented immigrants to be arrested without a warrant, part of the Arizona law aimed at driving undocumented immigrants elsewhere.

It was unclear what the court would do with other aspects of the law that have been put on hold by lower federal courts. The other blocked provisions make it a state crime for immigrants not to have immigration registration papers and for undocumented immigrants to seek work or hold a job.

Peter Spiro, a Tempe University law professor who specializes in immigration law, predicted the court would uphold the police check of immigration status in Arizona's law, but said he wouldn't be surprised if the court threw out a provision making it a crime to be without immigration documents.

Such a ruling would let police question people about their immigration status if they have good reason to do so, but police would have to call federal authorities to see if they would want to pick up anyone found to be in the country illegally. If federal agents decline, officers would have to release the people, unless they were suspected of committing crimes, Spiro said.

If that happened, the law would be mostly symbolic, but would still carry some significance for immigrants, Spiro said.

Cheers, quiet relief in S. Leone as Taylor found guilty

FREETOWN (AFP) — Sierra Leoneans cheered or quietly let the news sink in on Thursday as ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted of aiding and abetting a terror campaign by rebels during their country's 11-year civil war.

Victims, leaders and civil society representatives packed the headquarters of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), a modern building in the lush, hilly capital, to watch on monitors as the verdict unfolded in a courtroom thousands of kilometres (miles) away.

People fidgeted uncomfortably on the hard seats as complex details were read out, their faces hard to read as they were reminded of terrors such as human heads and entrails being used at checkpoints to instill fear.
Al Hadji Jusu Jarka, former chairman of the association of amputees mutilated by the rebels, watched the nearly two-hour judgement stony-faced, using his prosthetic arms to clasp a handkerchief to wipe his face in the heat.

"I am happy ... I feel justice has been done," Jarka said, after calmly listening to judge Richard Lussick announce Taylor was guilty of arming the rebels who in 1999 hacked off first his left, then his right arm as he was pinned to a mango tree.

"We as victims expect that Taylor will be given 100 years or more in prison," he added.
Sentencing will take place on May 30, Lussick said, ending some five years of hearings before the SCSL in a special courtroom on the outskirts of The Hague.

While victims quietly filed out of the court building in Freetown, another hall packed with victims and tribal chiefs from around the country erupted into cheers as they turned to congratulate each other.
"People were so happy," said a broadly-smiling P.C. Kaimpumu, paramount chief for the southern Bonthe district, adding that he was "perfectly pleased."

The verdict served as a warning to the country that "you can't just commit crimes without impunity," he said.
Outside, the Accountability Now Club (ANC) silently held up posters reading: "Shame on you Taylor" and "Please give us our diamonds back before you go to prison".

Information Minister Ibrahim Ben Kargbo said he was "satisfied" with the verdict that would allow the country, which has to contend with grinding poverty on top of its war wounds, to move on.

The verdict "gives us the opportunity to work to a way forward, after so many years of fighting, to put in place structures for development, to put aside impunity, to ensure human rights are protected," he said.
Eldred Collins, a spokesman for the rebels during the war, is now the chairmen of their political offshoot, the Revolutionary United Front Party (RUFP)

He maintains it was former RUF leader Foday Sankoh, who died in custody in 2003, who should have had his day in court.

"It (the verdict) is the court's decision, but Foday Sankoh should have been tried. Charles Taylor wasn't directly involved," he said.

Mohammed Bah, 35, who was forced to become a combatant at age 24 and also later had his left arm amputated during the war, said he "feels great" at the decision.

However former child soldier Mohammed Lamin Fofana, now 25, said the verdict did little to free him from his memories.

"Charles Taylor has disrupted our lives and the lives of all Sierra Leonean youth. Now my life has been changed, for this I will never forgive him."

Posseh Conteh, 18, struggled to voice her recollection of the war. She was four when rebels hacked off her left leg as she and her family ran from their village.

"I was very small," she smiled shyly. "I want him (Taylor) to be convicted to jail."
Others felt Taylor's conviction did nothing to change the hardships they had been through.
"You can try Taylor, jail him, but what about us the victims? What will now happen to us?" asked Ken Sesay, who lost his left leg. "Why aren't we being helped?"

Abortion Survivor Meets Nurse Who Saved Her Life

by Melissa Ohden
The abortion survivor steps into the room and comes face to face with a nurse volunteer that held and rocked her nearly thirty-five years ago when she was in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Tears flow quickly and they embrace. Sounds like a scene straight out of a Hollywood movie, doesn’t it? For me, it’s life.
I don’t think I will ever cease to be amazed at what unfolds in my life. Truly, surviving a failed saline infusion abortion 34 years ago was just one example of the amazing instances of miracles, blessings, and God-incidences that I experience everyday. The supporters of the Vitae Foundation’s Banquet in Sedalia, Missouri, on April 24th were blessed to witness yet another one of them; namely, me coming face to face with Michelle Lehr, who I am pictured with above, who held me in the NICU at the University of Iowa Hospital in 1977, where I had been transferred to after surviving the failed abortion.
Michelle was a college student, studying nursing, when she volunteered to hold babies at the Hospital. As Michelle remembers, I was preparing to leave the NICU and go home to my adoptive parents on the one occasion that she held me. When she questioned the nursing staff about the name of the little girl she chose to hold that day, she was told that I was nameless. And when she inquired further about why a nearly three-month-old baby was nameless, Michelle was told about what I had survived.
“God burned your image into my brain, never to be forgotten.” Thirty-four years later, Michelle had not forgotten about me, and a curious search on the Internet a month ago about abortion survivors led her to me. “Melissa, did you recover at the University of Iowa Hospital? If so, then I believe that I rocked you as a volunteer. I distinctly remember a tiny infant with that same story in 1977 or 1978.” Waking up to this message on Facebook on March 23rd, I was pulled out of the stupor of illness that I was experiencing. I rarely speak about being transferred to The University of Iowa Hospitals because it’s too confusing for people. It’s hard enough to comprehend how someone like me survives in the first place, but to then wrap your brain around how I was saved and then transferred to another hospital for continued care, that’s just down right difficult to grasp for many. So, for Michelle to bring up the University of Iowa Hospital, I knew that she knew me. I mean REALLY knew me.
“I did, Michelle!!!! Oh my gosh. I got to tour the NICU a few years back and see two of the nurses who cared for me there. It was 1977. Here I am at the airport, crying this morning, reading this. Thank you for helping to love me into life!” In between my tears, I quickly sent her this response. By the time Michelle had read my response the next day, she had already visited my ministry website and viewed the picture of me as an infant, lying in the incubator, and she knew it was me that she had held. Thirty-four years later, I was the one baby that she remembered distinctly. And although we offered up plans to connect by phone, between battling illness that affected my voice for weeks, traveling and speaking, and my responsibilities at home, I hadn’t had time to contact Michelle. I was waiting for my schedule to slow down so that I could give contacting her the time and attention that I wanted and she deserved, but God had other plans, thankfully.
I was on my way to Sedalia on April 24th to speak that evening, when I opened an email from the Vitae Foundation entitled “Small Surprise.” My interest piqued, I opened it to learn that the “small surprise” was that Michelle lived within a couple of hours of Sedalia and would be attending the banquet that night. Although the Vitae staff were excited about this amazing opportunity for Michelle and I, l don’t think any of could guess the impact that Michelle’s attendance and our first meeting in almost thirty-five years would have on us or the Vitae supporters.
I cried more times than I can count leading up to the Vitae event, knowing that Michelle was yet another individual who knew first-hand about how abortion had affected me, she had seen me and even held me when I was still a vulnerable little girl, who was still attempting to fully recover from the saline infusion abortion procedure meant to end my life. I wondered how our meeting would go, I wondered if I had shaped her life and her beliefs about abortion, I wondered so many things throughout the day. Yet, when I walked into the Parkview Christian Church that night, I stopped wondering and just trusted that our meeting would unfold the way that it was intended to.
And without saying a word, I knew Michelle when I saw her that night. There was a knowing in her eyes, an understanding that communicated this wasn’t the first time we had met. This wasn’t a meeting, it was a reunion. We hugged and cried when we first met that evening, and certainly, my tears flowed many times that night. I learned that night that Michelle is still a nurse today, and believes in the sanctity of human life. I believe that holding me that day in the NICU 34 years ago sealed those beliefs that she had held at the time onto her heart.
Words can’t even begin to describe what it was like to meet Michelle, to give her my thanks in front of a couple hundred people for her loving hands holding me years ago and for remembering me in a world that would often rather forget lives like mine. Simply put, last night was a blessing; a blessing for me, a blessing for her, and a blessing for the Vitae Foundation and the people from the Sedalia area.
I know Michelle probably thinks that she did something very simple that day by holding me, and that she doesn’t deserve all of the attention that she received, but I disagree. It is ordinary people like Michelle, like you and me, who, by stepping up, do extraordinary things that make a huge difference in the lives of children who are at risk of being aborted, of women and men in need. Thank you again, Michelle, for playing a part in loving me into life, for never forgetting me, and for blessing me with your presence in my life again! Note: As the survivor of a failed abortion attempt in the U.S. in 1977, Melissa Ohden now puts a face to abortion around the world, and gives a voice to the unborn children who lose their lives to abortion every day.